Top questions you should ask to create the perfect meal
By Martha A. Keeffe
When it comes to making a good impression and creating lasting memories, the wedding meal does more than its share. A quality meal is a feast for the senses that serves to satiate guests and thank them for their support. To find the perfect caterer and help ensure your wedding food is satisfying and remarkable, be sure to ask these questions.
1. Can you create the dining experience we want?
When combining the imagination of the couple with the creativity of a good caterer, options for serving wedding guests are unlimited. From comfortable backyard barbecues to elegant sit-down meals, your caterer can complement the atmosphere of your reception with fare perfectly suited to your taste. “More couples are paying attention to how they want their reception presented,” says Mary Cody, owner and chef at Traditions restaurant in Onalaska. “They like to be more creative and if that means incorporating a family recipe or bringing a grill to the site, we can do that.”
2. Can you provide a food tasting?
Imagine buying your wedding dress without first trying it on. Though it might be immediately beautiful, it may not fit once you get it home. Keep that same thought in mind when choosing a caterer. “Plenty of places have food that looks good, but you need to verify that it is,” says Josh Pogreba, owner of Pogy’s Catering in La Crosse. “It’s becoming popular to ask to do a tasting, especially if you are not familiar with the caterer.”
3. What supplementary items do you provide?
Having taken the time to select a delicious, quality menu, make sure you have the proper settings to showcase it. Establish whether or not the caterer provides linens, plates, and glassware and approve its appearance ahead of time. For off-site receptions ask if the caterer can either furnish their own tables and chairs or arrange for them to be delivered.
4. How will the wait staff be attired, and will there be enough servers to run the reception smoothly?
To accompany the overall mood of your reception ask that catering staff be dressed appropriately. Clean, well-maintained uniforms or aprons of matching colors and styles lend a professional air to the event and help guests indentify the servers. In addition, Kelly R. Stuber, manager and head chef for Black Tie Catering in La Crosse, recommends a ratio of one server per 50 guests to keep the party running efficiently for buffet-style receptions and one server per 20 guests for plated dinners .
5. Can you work within our budget?
Caterers understand the financial constraints of a wedding and are happy to offer creative ways to help keep meal costs within budget. Cody recommends that you meet with your caterer and have an honest discussion about your expectations and what you can afford. She also suggests using the caterer’s menu simply as a guideline. “Don’t be shy about asking for options that aren’t listed,” she says. “Many times the solution can be found by choosing a different product or creating a custom menu just for your wedding.”
6. Can you accommodate special dietary needs?
Whether your entire wedding party is vegetarian or you have only one guest among 100 who is, it’s a good idea to ask if your caterer can accommodate the particular need. “It’s not unusual to get a specific food request,” says Pogreba. “I’ve made vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free meals. It doesn’t matter if it’s for the whole party or simply a handful of plates.”
7. What are some of the latest trends?
Taking a departure from the traditional buffet line, caterers are eager to share their ideas. Charcoal grilled pizzas, vegan Sloppy Joes, and even deep-fried cheese curds have emerged as contemporary favorites, surprising guests with unexpected cuisine. According to Stuber, serving appetizers in place of a meal or setting up personalized stations in which guests create their own custom-made entrees, have become increasingly popular as couples look for ways to encourage guests to mingle. And for folks who want to sit down and interact, family-style dinners work well in bringing people together.
In short, there’s no end to what your imagination can bring to the table. Just ask.